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Archive for December 20th, 2008

API concludes successful meetings in London (UK), Washington and Chicago (USA), on the Michelle Obama tape and the Imam document on Obama’s actual birth-place

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

Days has passed, weeks has passed and months have passed and API is still on it – The Michelle Obama tape and the Imam document on Obama.

Many have shown their resounding hate to the events and wished to have the results their way and quickly. API chose a process and decided to stick to it and established levels to follow and still follows aimed at the realization of the intended objective.

The situation surrounding the two items has cause tension in some circles and has resulted in serious meetings that has taken place in Oslo, London and now Washington and Chicago. ALL meetings aiming to resolve the stalemate that has resulted in serious problems as to the release dates.

Some bloggers who have not understood API have taken the lead to attack and have forgotten that their attack on us has really popularised us worldwide and forced these meetings on us, meetings we do not regret to have and with the opportunity it gives us to meet the incoming US establishment even before they are in office.

As we write this day, it is APIs pleasure to have the opportunity to discus the importance of the tape and the document with people of sound mind than read on hateful ignorant blogs led by hateful bunch of bloggers who are unable to see the point behind all that has been going on. We however do not hate that they have continued to keep API in the limelight, be it spreading bad or good information, because the important thing we see and achieve daily is how many times API is mentioned daily worldwide and the number of readers expanding on a daily basis.

Some bloggers keep highlighting on API credibility and we do not understand why they bother and yet we in API do not bother in any way. Whether they want to credit or discredit API it is their freedom to do so and API will keep the good work flowing as a blessed river and grow world-wide.

We have decided to call upon negative bloggers to continue discrediting us if that is what pleases them, and want to let them know not to think we sweat whenwe notice their negative writings about us, but instead it gives us challenge and happiness to know that our existence bothers and gives them a headache while we rejoice.

API does not want to sound arrogant in any way, but it is APIs liberty to celebrate the hits and the popularity of the site. On hitting 5 million target-hits, API intends to bring a story and a summary of the saga that has occupied many for 2 months and 7 days.

The round-trip meetings on the subject has been to discus and find ways and means to accomplish goals we have set, but that it has to be done in a manner not hurtful to anyone.

The Washington meeting and Chicago meeting enabled API to discus serious issues with Obama and McCain operatives and this has resulted in solutions that all involved are well comfortable with for now.

In a joint press conference to be organised and attended by API, the Obama and the McCain representatives, it will come clear that which has been agreed upon and what is the conclusion of it all.

API Editorial

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This is what Christmas is all about…

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

I think I need to read this every year at Christmas.

– – – – – – –

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?

Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his r ight shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

God bless you!

Send in by a good American

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Human rights group highlighting survivors’ rights

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

RWANDA: Make justice a reality for genocide survivors, urges rights group

Photo: Noel King/IRIN
Genocide survivors at a past reconciliation meeting: A report by African Rights says justice, more than reconciliation, plays a fundamental role for the survivors

NAIROBI, 19 December 2008 (IRIN) – Justice, more than reconciliation, plays a fundamental role for the survivors of Rwandas 1994 genocide and much more needs to be done to make justice a reality for them, a report by African Rights, a human rights think-tank, recommends.

We need to listen to their concerns, help to protect them from reprisals and further trauma and support those in need of psychological and financial assistance, Rakiya Omaar, the African Rights director, said in a statement.

The African Rights report was issued on 10 December, days before the Tanzania-based UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) handed down a life sentence on Theoneste Bagosora, accused of masterminding the killings.

The report, Survivors and Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda: Their Experiences, Perspectives and Hopes, offers new insights into the meaning of justice after genocide by examining various objectives of the policy-makers from the viewpoint of the survivors.

The report is based on at least 100 interviews with genocide survivors in Rwanda and Europe and took eight months to research and document.

“Justice is a fundamental human value and a central component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS – an organisation that seeks reparation for torture survivors – said in the statement jointly issued with African Rights. “Yet, for survivors of genocide in Rwanda, justice remains elusive.”

According to the government of Rwanda, an estimated 937,000 people – mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were killed during the genocide.

Handing down the sentence to Bagosora and two others, ICTR judge Erik Mose said the former army colonel was guilty of the 1994 killings and held the highest authority in the Ministry of Defence.

Photo: Sukhdev Chhatbar/IRIN
Theoneste Bagosora: The ICTR sentenced him to life in prison

Bagosora was director of the cabinet in the Ministry of Defence and a high-ranking officer of the Rwandan Armed Forces during the genocide.

The judge said Bagosora was responsible for the organised killings by soldiers and militiamen during the genocide.

The court also sentenced Maj Aloys Ntabakuze and Col Anatole Nsengiyumva to life in prison but acquitted Gen Gratian Kabiligi.

Bagosora, 67, has been described as an anti-Tutsi extremist. He spoke openly about extermination of Tutsis and distributed weapons to Interahamwe militiamen during the genocide.

He was arrested in Cameroon in March 1996 and his trial at the ICTR began in April 2002. He had been accused of three counts of genocide, six counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes.


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Guinea to go to the polls

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

GUINEA: Parliamentary poll set for May 2009

Photo: Masco Cond/IRIN
Soldiers move to stop civilian demonstrations against the government in the Guinean capital Conakry, February 2007 (file photo)

CONAKRY, 19 December 2008 (IRIN) – Following weeks of speculation over the timing of Guineas overdue parliamentary elections, the prime minister on 17 December told the National Assembly the poll would take place end of May 2009.

Legislative elections are seen as an essential element for restoring political stability in Guinea, which for years has been pummeled by political and socio-economic unrest. After deadly civilian uprisings in 2007 in which people called for President Lansana Conte to step down, measures aimed at appeasing the population included setting parliamentary elections for late 2007. The elections have been repeatedly postponed since.

Following the latest cancellation the pollhad been setfor December 2008 some political observers were concerned about rumours that the legislative elections might be put off until the presidential election set for 2010. Government officials noted at a recent conference in the capital Conakry that running the legislative poll would be expensive.

Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Soars 17 December announcement to the National Assembly comes days after a meeting of political leaders and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in which it was decided that the polls would be held on 31 May 2009.

Guineas last parliamentary elections in 2002 were boycotted by many opposition parties over alleged irregularities. The ruling party of President Lansana Conte won 91 of 114 seats.


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Journalists daring to speak the truth call for death onto themselves

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

On the anniversary of the murder of independent journalist Deyda Hydara, Dawn Starin says the media must turn its attention to The Gambia, where free expression is increasingly under threat

David and Fiona Fulton, a British couple working as Christian missionaries in The Gambia, the smallest country on the African continent, were arrested, charged with sedition and held in custody. Within days, international newspapers and news agencies picked up the story, ran with it and spread it across their pages and through the ether. Why? This is not unusual for The Gambia. Over the years many people mostly Gambians have been arrested, detained, paraded on local television, prosecuted, imprisoned, tortured and disappeared and/or murdered for expressing their opinions, a freedom actually guaranteed by the countrys 1997 constitution. And over the years the western media the media that counts hasnt paid attention.

A few weeks ago,

Ever since President Yahya Jammeh now referring to himself as either Professor or Doctor because he claims to have discovered cures for Aids, infertility, asthma, hypertension, obesity, male impotency and diabetes seized power in a 1994 military coup, dissent has not been allowed within the borders of this small West African country.

Although frequently depicted as a tourist haven, a land of constant sunshine and lovely seascapes, The Gambia is in fact ruled by a dictator who garners support from the army, the police and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA, the Gambian Secret Service also known as the presidents iron fist), which he uses to stifle dissent. Human rights violations are routine. Government-sponsored murder, mayhem and prejudice abound. While thousands of European tourists cavort on the sandy beaches and in the numerous nightclubs enjoying the sun and sea, Gambias 1.7 million citizens often live in fear.

According to Amnesty International, any person considered to be a perceived enemy of the government is at risk of being arrested, tortured and even killed. Reporters Sans Frontires says opposition to President Yahya Jammeh or the expression of dissident views has become a high-risk undertaking that can catapult anyone, especially journalists, into the lawless world of Gambias prisons.

Various human rights organisations and press freedom watchdogs have voiced concern over the lack of media freedom and the dangers faced by journalists in The Gambia. Reporters Sans Frontires reports that journalists for The Gambias privately-owned media live in fear, with death threats, surveillance, night-time arrests, arbitrary detention and mistreatment being the norm for journalists who refuse to support the government.

Within the confines of this small sliver of a country, journalists are arrested, their presses are shut down, their buildings are burned and worse. The independent journalist and co-founder and editor of the Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara, was murdered on 16 December 2004 and his killers are still at large. Hydara, who was hounded by the NIA for his outspoken, anti-government opinions, was gunned down two days after the Gambian National Assembly passed repressive media legislation that imposed mandatory prison sentences for any published work judged to be seditious or libellous. By publicly opposing the law, Hydara put his life on the line a life he sacrificed for press freedom.

Chief Ebrima B Manneh, a local journalist considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, disappeared after being seized by government agents in 2006. Is he still alive? Is he in custody? The government has refused to answer these questions.

It is not just Gambian journalists working on Gambian papers who are affected by this climate of fear. According to Reporters sans frontires, the intolerant Gambian government also targets those who are normally outside its grasp. Fatou Jaw Manneh, a former reporter for the Daily Observer, and an online journalist currently residing in the USA, was arrested by the NIA when she arrived at Banjul airport, and prosecuted for intention to commit sedition, publication of seditious words and publication of false news intended to create public fear and alarm, because she described Jammeh as a bundle of terror and accused him of tearing our beloved country to shreds. On 18 August, after a trial that dragged on for more than 16 months, she was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on four counts of sedition and sentenced to four years imprisonment with hard labour, or a 250,000 Dalasi (approx. US$12,000) fine, payable the same day. Fortunately she was able to raise the funds from the Gambia Press Union and her family, avoiding imprisonment.

It is believed that at least 23 Gambian journalists have gone into exile some of them, like Momodou Lamin Jaiteh, after receiving threatening phone calls and visits from security forces. And others, like Yahya Dampha, a journalist on the opposition newspaper Foroyaa, after being arrested.

And it is not just journalists who have to be ultra-careful in this climate of fear. Amnesty International claims that once anyone is in custody, they are susceptible to a whole range of human rights violations, including unlawful detention, torture while in detention, unfair trials, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions. Frequently they do not have access to their families or lawyers and are exposed to poor conditions in Mile 2 prison the same prison where Mr Fulton is residing.

Although the present constitution adopts no official religion, thereby implying that The Gambia is a secular state, since the arrest of the Fultons, various Internet sites claim that Christians living in The Gambia are under threat.

According to Human Rights Watch, gay men and lesbians are clearly under threat. Earlier this year Jammeh told a rally that he would make the countrys ban on homosexuality tougher than the Iranian laws and he is said to have threatened to behead homosexuals, giving them 24 hours to leave the country. According to the Daily Observer, Jammeh was also quoted as saying, We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals [homosexuals] in this country. Jammeh also declared that any hotel or lodge housing a homosexual be closed down, further warning that if found in any compound, the landlord would be in deep trouble. The government has since denied that Jammeh called for decapitating homosexuals, without addressing his other reported threats.

Activists in the region told Human Rights Watch that following these statements at least three Gambian men were detained because police suspected them of homosexual conduct. The Associated Press also reported the arrest, on 2 June, of two Spanish men for allegedly making homosexual proposals to a taxi driver.

Not so long ago a local tour guide explained to me that tourists come here to see African culture and they see only what they want to see. They all go back and they write stories about palm trees and smiling people and cheap beer and fake drumming and dancing ceremonies put on by the hotels and they do not see the fear and trepidation that surrounds us. They do not see that we have to whisper and we have to pretend that we are glad to run off the road every time the president and his bodyguards and his guns and his tanks come driving past and they do not know that Jammeh and his NIA men come in the middle of the night and kill people who disagree with them.

So why is it that The Gambia is never more than a blip on the news radar? Or, at most, simply a quaint story about holiday romps in an exotic place with the natives? Is it because news is simply what the western media defines it to be and The Gambia the real Gambia and Gambians are not newsworthy? Well, unfortunately, this small little country is now falling apart and no one is paying attention.

The Fultons deserve devoted newspaper and web space. They deserve to have their story told. They deserve justice. And so do the many Gambians languishing in cells and under house arrest and hiding in foreign countries and whispering behind closed doors. So why is it that the Fultons get so much attention, while the numerous murdered, detained, arrested, disappeared Gambians get so little? Is it because the Fultons are Christians in an Islamic country? Is it because the Fultons are British in an African country? Is it because the Fultons are white in a black country? Whatever the reason, maybe now the outside world will open its eyes and realise that this West African tourist haven known for the cheap sunny package holiday is not such a haven after all.


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A danger of contracting viruses in line of duty looms in Malawi

Posted by African Press International on December 20, 2008

MALAWI: Matthias Kalima, “Ambulance drivers risk contracting the virus in the line of duty”

Photo: IRIN
Matthias Kalima

BALAKA,, 19 December 2008 (IRIN) – Matthias Kalima, 43, is an ambulance driver and there is no respite during the festive season.

“We face so many challenges as we transport patients to clinics. My worry is that most ambulance drivers are not protected from infections. Sometimes we handle cases of accident victims who are bleeding – with no gloves you end up handling such cases with bare hands.

“Chances are that you can contract HIV or other dangerous infections. My fellow drivers have complained about this, but most bosses are always reluctant to take action.

“Take the month of December [2008] – people party and there are so many accidents on our roads. Our predicament is similar to that of traffic police officers. Just like us, they also handle dead bodies, people who are bleeding sometimes, without gloves due to circumstances.

“December is one of the months when have the highest number of accidents. We are called any time, even in the middle of the night, to ferry the sick, the injured or even corpses to the hospital.

“Sometimes couples fight and hack each other. It is our responsibility, even when we are having some good time with friends, to cut short the celebrations and take the injured to hospital.

“Just today, I woke up at 3 a.m. because there was a maternity case. I had to drive the expectant mother to the clinic – I have no option.

“Much as we are also entitled to happiness and celebration on Christmas, ambulance drivers appear not to be part of it. I don’t remember the last time I celebrated Christmas with my family. They just got used to it.

“Perhaps our organisations should employ more ambulance drivers so that we work on shifts. Ambulance drivers lack motivation. Despite the onerous duties that we discharge, our perks are meagre. This is one of the reasons most people are not willing to be employed as ambulance drivers.

“We are more than ambulance drivers; we do humanitarian work, and society should start looking at us from that angle. An ambulance driver is more than just a mere driver – we save lives!

“Come Christmas time, everyone will be celebrating and partying, while we will be on the road with our sirens wailing as we try to save lives, or we carry the dead to the morgue.

“Something ought to be done to improve our working conditions. We need better equipment, we need gloves all the time, we need better salaries.

“Apart from better salaries we also need risk allowance. Yes, with the high prevalence of HIV, ambulance drivers risk contracting the virus in the line of duty. Most people turn a blind eye to this.

“If you ask me where I will be on Christmas, I will tell you that I will probably be on one of our highways. Christmas or no Christmas, it will be business as usual for me.”


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